Proactive Strategies: “The future is what you make it,” Marty McFly, Back To The Future.
Although Marty was a fictional character, his words weren’t the result of baseless optimism. Optimism has actually very little to do with success. What does? Having a proactive strategy. A proactive strategy is about creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it happens. It allows you the ability to, like Marty said, make the future.
Proactive vs. Reactive
Without a forward-thinking approach, you will always be in a reactive mode. While some people are good at reacting to a crisis, it’s not sustainable. Over time, consistently being reactive will cause you to burn out. Being proactive will allow you to seize the initiative and be in control of the situation, circumstance and opportunity. It is about anticipating what can go wrong and, in a sense, reacting in advance – by preventing that crisis from happening in the first place.
You may be thinking, sounds great, but how do I put a proactive strategy together in the first place? Here’s how:
- Define your mission. Also known as a “blinding glimpse of the obvious.” This is the vision needed to assess and initiate things independently. This vision is your proactive strategy, or it can be broken down into simple elements, the steps or plans needed to accomplish success that define your mission.
- Intelligence. An understanding of the current situation from a high level. Intelligence is the raw data, the key elements or the structure that applies to your mission. The need for intelligence must be muted by what you really need to know. It’s a balancing act. Don’t gloss over the details but do not keep asking questions which do not apply.
- Analysis. This is where you conduct a detailed examination of the elements or the structure of your mission to come up with a framework of data that can be discussed and analyzed. The goal is to get 70% there. Don’t overthink the situation, but generate enough to make a complete plan. You’ll need to apply logical reasoning, sensible judgement and intuition – relying on your gut still matters in this world.
- Communicate your plan. You need to clearly state your strategy outlining the steps necessary to accomplish your vision. Deploy tactics as needed or allow your subordinates to utilize their own tactics to achieve their assignments. Your plan must be decisive and produce a definite result.
- Take action. Once you determine the decisive plan you must put it into action. Execution of the plan does not have to be perfect and adjustments can be made. Action can create other opportunities and allows for growth.
- Monitor the strategy. You’ve taken the initiative, identified in step one and step four. Now ensure you have control of it. Set checkpoints along the way so you can assess your strategy. Respond immediately when situations arise that require you to settle the issue and seize control. You will lose the initiative if you allow problems to fester.
Obstacles you may expect to face when executing a proactive strategy:
- Communication. This is an issue common to many organizations. Watch out for informal communication that is ignored, poor communication skills by the communicator, or poor listening skills by the person on the receiving end of the direction.
- Speed. Effectiveness is not about putting in long hours or adopting the habits of a workaholic. While sometimes you must bear down to get things done, always look for ways to master speed and make the task easier. Try to accomplish more with less effort and in less time.
- Competency. There’s the technical, when people are not trained to do their jobs correctly. And there’s the tactical, where people are trained but lack the knowledge, discipline or confidence to deploy their technical skills.
- Power struggles. Setting a proactive strategy is not about power over others. It’s about controlling your circumstances. These are often confused.
Seize the Initiative | Be Proactive
Seizing the initiative is a trait which will serve you well as you build a career. Read about other strategies that can help determine your future here.
This has been article #4 in our “From the desk of” series, special content created just for you, from our CEO Brad Eller. Share it as you wish, in the form of a link, or informally. The intent is to help your people align their career goals with the everyday needs of the organization, creating value.